Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Dealing with grief
The first few days of a monkeys residence here at Canaote is always a sensitive time. The monkey is always confused and frightened. Often this is the first time that they will have seen another monkey apart from their mother. They associate the experience with loss. In addition they have lost humans who in most cases have been loving and supportive.
Inevitability the monkey experiences grief. This is often demonstrated by passing up and down on one path in any enclosure. The vocal sounds at this time are typical and do not very between howler monkeys. This approximates to (wa-oh) the oh sound being drawn out. This is a fair indication that some form of universal language exist between howler monkeys. This period of grief can vary in duration from a day to a week but rarely beyond that. This of course depends on the monkey’s previous experience. Those that grieve longest are those who come from a loving and supportive human family. Time is the great healer. We never leave a monkey to his misery. During this period he will have constant love and attention. It must be said that the human donor most often suffers more grief than the child. This grieving can be for an extended period, sometimes amounting to many months. This sense of loss is very real. We are very aware of the trauma of parting and we try to minimize the experience. Firstly we consider the monkey. If the monkey comes from a home where he has been in constant contact with a human, we try to duplicate that relationship. Often the monkey will be in the company of someone here twenty four hours a day and in particular at night. It is not unusual to find someone with a monkey on their shoulders as they go about the day’s chores. Clearly this is not a permanent arrangement and a suitable solution has to be found. Where possible we introduce the monkey to compatible companions. This selection has to be carefully done. Howlers have their likes and dislikes when it comes to choosing friends. A short period of trial and error is sometimes needed.
For the human state we offer this blog, which is updated several times a week. We encourage unlimited visiting and we are always available on the telephone and online with facilities like Windows Messenger, e-mail and Google talk. For those who are very sad we sometimes introduce other former owners to each other. This has been a great aid to getting through the grief. We somewhat lightly call this ‘Simian Samaritans’.
For this evenings photograph we have Moñito, who has only been with us since the weekend. Already he is spending part of his day with two other boys, although he is with me overnight. You see him here doing justice to a piece of Lechosa (Papaya). He never stops eating if given the chance. I have the impression that he wants to be a big monkey by tomorrow afternoon.
Posted by Philip Cordrey at 8:31 PM